2006 PT Cruiser New Car Test Drive
The 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser features its first significant facelift in six years. Inside and out, the new look is best described as more modern, but not so much so as to spoil the PT's toy-hot-rod fun.
Chrysler PT Cruiser combines the retro look of late-'30s American iron with modern performance, efficiency and features. It doesn't fit within existing automotive marketing segments.
The PT Cruiser is based on the Dodge Neon, a compact car noted for sprightly performance. It comes in two body styles, a versatile five-door model and a two-door convertible.
The five-door model's tall body boasts lots of room for people and cargo. In fact, its interior volume and versatility compare well to a small SUV. Fold the seats down and you can carry an eight-foot ladder. Pull the rear seats out and you can haul a load of building materials or a big-screen TV. Yet the PT Cruiser is shorter in length than a Neon, making it easy to park. It's easy on gas. The lower-level models are competitively priced, and we think they make the most sense.
Pricier turbocharged models add fire under the hood. For 2006, the fire has been turned up to 230 horsepower in the GT model. A more affordable 180-horsepower turbo is also available.
The convertible is one of the least expensive on the market. It looks like a chopped-top gangster-mobile with the top up and puts the wind in your hair with the top down. Roomy seats make it great for four passengers, but its trunk is tiny and awkward.
The Chrysler PT Cruiser comes in two body styles: a five-door hatchback/wagon, which Chrysler calls a sedan; and a two-door convertible.
The sedan is available in four trim levels: base, Touring, Limited, and GT. The convertible comes in Touring and GT trim only (the base-model convertible has been dropped for '06).
All PT Cruisers are powered by a 2.4-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder engine. In base, Touring, and Limited versions, this engine is tuned to deliver 150 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, a four-speed automatic is optional ($825).
A 180-horsepower turbocharged version of this same engine is optional on Limited sedans ($2,000) and Touring convertibles ($2,105). Both prices include automatic transmission; a manual gearbox is not available with this engine.
A 230-horsepower High Output turbocharged version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is standard on the GT. This engine comes with a heavy-duty five-speed manual transaxle made by Getrag; a four-speed automatic is optional ($550).
The base sedan ($13,405) comes with AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo; fabric bucket seats and floor console; tilt steering; power windows; speed-sensitive power locks; engine immobilizer; tinted glass; rear window defroster, wiper, and washer; 65/35 split folding rear seat; and 15-inch steel wheels.
The Touring sedan ($15,530) adds air conditioning, power mirrors, a fold-flat front passenger seat with storage drawer, remote keyless entry, and other interior features. To that list the Touring Convertible ($23,175) adds a power top with soft boot cover, 50/50 split rear seat, fog lamps, and 16-inch painted aluminum wheels. Leather seats are optional on the convertible.
Limited ($17,405), offered only as a sedan, comes with side-impact airbags, cruise control, six-way power seats with upgraded cloth upholstery and manual lumbar adjustment; leather-wrapped steering wheel; security alarm; HomeLink universal garage-door opener; power glass sunroof; and a unique touring suspension on 16-inch aluminum wheels. (Yes, you read that right; the 'touring' suspension comes on the Limited, not on the Touring model.)
The GT sedan ($23,030) adds four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, a performance-tuned suspension, traction control, and all-season performance tires on 17-inch chromed aluminum wheels. The GT also comes with side-impact airbags, a power glass sunroof, and most of the Limited's luxury goodies. Leather sport seats are also standard. The GT convertible ($27,930) comes with all the Limited and GT sedan goodies, and for '06 its 17-inch wheels are chrome-plated, just like the sedan's.
Optional on all convertibles and on Limited and GT sedans is a new Boston Acoustics premium sound system (replacing last year's Infinity system), but retaining the same 368-watt peak output. Other stand-alone options include the glass sunroof for Touring sedans ($1100), heated front seats for Limited and GT ($250), and side-impact airbags for base and Touring ($390). Sirius Satellite Radio is optional on all models this year ($195, including a one-year subscribtion). GPS navigation ($1100) is available on Limited and GT; so is UConnect hands-free, in-vehicle communications ($360), which uses Bluetooth technology to link the user's cellular phone with the Cruiser's stereo speakers. Limited sedans can be ordered with plastic woodgrain exterior accents ($895) for the vintage Town & Country look. Many of the standard features on higher-line models are also available as options on the less expensive models.
Safety features include front side-impact airbags, standard in GT and Limited and optional ($390) on the other models. Seatbelts should always be worn, however, and the PT Cruiser comes with three-point safety harnesses at all positions, including the rear center position. The front belts have pyrotechnically charged tensioners, just like in luxury cars, to tighten the belts for the initial stages of an impact. T.